2021 is the year dedicated to F&V farmers, sustainable farming methods and the ecosystem. So let us know what’s happening to our food plate, our salads and more…
Food chain traceability is the current upcoming trend of Agtech. The demand for 100% supply chain transparency has increased multifold globally, compelling food companies to adopt traceability that gives power to consumers to know all about the food they are consuming. Traceability offers consumers the ability to track back products to the farm it was harvested, the farmer who grew it, how it was grown and much more.
What do we, as modern consumers, do? Just scan a smart code on the food packets or in the supermarket alley, say at Walmart or Costco.
Governments in several countries such as the USA, Canada and other European countries are actively considering traceability implementation in the food supply chain. Recently, European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food Trust Report surveyed consumers in a few European countries to measure the trust local people have in the food system and their confidence in food products. This TrustTracker study examined the responses of regular grocery shoppers and retail consumer’s confidence in food product integrity — measured and marked by a combination of five factors: taste, safety, healthiness, authenticity and sustainability.
From 2018, when TrustTracker surveyed approximately over 5,000 consumers online (surveyed by Ipsos) in five European countries. In 2019, 13 EU nations surveyed around 11,000 consumers, and in June 2020, 18 EU countries surveyed around 19,800 people. Since 2018, people’s confidence in food safety and regulation has improved to 8% overall, considering the five-country sample of France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK.
Concerning COVID-19, the focus on safety and hygiene has significantly increased. Yet, consumers’ recent push for greater transparency and traceability translates that data and information are becoming more widely accessible and understood by consumers.
The UN has set 2021 as The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV2021) with a few primary objectives, launched on December 15th, 2020, by the FAO Director-General, QU Donguy, with an overture to boost safe, healthy, and nutritious food production through the active adoption of technology such as traceability and cut down food wastage due to food spoilage, theft or any other reason.
According to FAO many factors are involved while promoting Fruits & Vegetables,some of the objectives highlighted are:
● Raising awareness about the health and nutrition benefits of fruits and vegetables and directing policy attention to the same.
● Promoting healthy eating through salubrious diets that include diversified fruits and vegetables.
● Cutting down food wastage and losses in fruits and vegetable supply chains.
● Improve sustainability, make supply chains efficient, and strengthen capacity along with improving food consumption.
Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables are more likely to be purchased on contract for the retail channel. Contracting for fresh fruits and vegetables produce helps buyers ensure a consistent supply of high‐quality produce from trusted suppliers, with lower transaction costs than buying from a spot or terminal market. Also, these contracts are subject to a wide range of force majeure clauses, i.e., from a business perspective, sellers servicing foodservice buyers will need to find alternative buyers in the retail channel and vice versa—retail buyers require to quickly locate suppliers that have been selling to food service buyers.
Peak of the Pandemic, both the United States and Canada were hoarding vegetables and the producers/farmers of perishable items experienced forward purchasing. There were reports of sporadic stockouts in some of the more storable (longer shelf life) produce items, for example—table potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes. Another less prevalent trend was processed (frozen and canned) fruits and vegetables, with the nontrivial market in Canada estimated to be approx. $7 billion. People resorted to bulking up their carts with frozen vegetables and processed food to compensate for the stock outs in retail. Gradually this trend faded.
Firstly, decisions to grow most vegetables (and seasonal fruits) are made at least 3 to 6 months in advance of retail shipments, depending on the item in question. Therefore, the onset of a crisis that occurred as rapidly as COVID‐19 does not necessarily interrupt the planting and harvesting. However, harvesting crops was a bottleneck for large farm owners and growers in the Southern US (the primary source of imports to Canada) due to lack of seasonal harvesting laborers. Gradually, the situation improved, the food industry substituted workers by attracting workers with higher wages and food security.
Ensuring Traceability And Handling Recalls, Managing Perishable Inventory & Complying With Global Regulations
The perishable foods industry is demanding a change for a while now. In order to provide transparency to the industry and offer additional details to consumers about the production, storage, packaging, shipment, delivery, stocking of the food, and boosting consumer confidence in companies, the industry is focused on adopting technologies such as traceability and AI.
The need to adopt technology innovations became aggressive after the governments rolled out new food security and safety rules and after the outbreak of E.coli in 2018. Moreover, consumers’ growing demands to be more aware of the food put on the shelves of retail stores is also pushing perishable food companies to adopt traceability slash down shipment recall rates. In the U.S. alone, 52% of all recalls cost over $10M and 23% cost over $30M.
International standards around Horticulture are prevalent including the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE FFV from apples, artichokes, citrus fruits, watermelons, tomatoes and more. The OECD and Freshfel Europe examine the structure of the online market of fruit and vegetables in several EU countries and check compliance with the information provided to consumers. The OECD Fruit and Vegetables Scheme is one of several OECD Codes and Schemes that facilitate international trade by simplifying administrative procedures in seeds, fruit and vegetables, forest reproductive material, and tractors. Most governments are becoming more consistent with following food traceability to ensure their exports and imports are sufficiently safe for consumption.
Additionally, fresh produce sellers are adapting to channel shift and other changing consumer behaviors. Many urban consumers began ordering groceries online using mobile apps or following direct pages of their Local Farmers Market. People have become sensitive to the farmers’ struggles of dealing with margin pressure when transacting with food retailers. This was a welcome shift as farmers could directly sell their products to consumers who were conscious of quality and purity and were willing to pay a premium.
Taking into consideration the benefits of traceability, such as supply chain efficiency, transparency, security, it seems imperative to have traceability at the food manufacturing level. As the need for product knowledge rises, traceability will help maintain a clear relationship between consumers and manufacturers and help boost brand image and consumer trust in companies. Critical food chains handling dairy, fish, fresh vegetables are the early adopters of agtech, specifically farm-to-fork traceability.
The contemporary industrialized fruit and vegetable industry has become increasingly synchronized over the past decade. With thousands of regulations worldwide related to the Traceability and Food Safety of the production of fruit and vegetables for human consumption, the key is to match these global certified practices. Some of the best practice standards for fresh produce traceability include BRC, GlobalGAP, ISO, HACCP, CanGAP, EuroGAP. Food companies dealing with fresh produce must implement solutions that support these standards, making compliance and audits easy and less expensive.
SourceTrace Fresh Produce Traceability Software has implemented projects and case studies that has managed every facet of fresh produce traceability for a wide range of fruit, vegetable, coconut, corn, coffee, flower, hop, and other fresh produce packing requirements. It combines warehouse management software at food retailers facilities with DataGreen Farm Management ERP to create seamless traceability from planting to post packing to, eventually, sales.
The scope of fresh produce traceability software:
● The guidelines are global and apply to fresh fruit and vegetables for human consumption.
● Applicable to traceability practices from grower to retail store or foodservice operator (i.e., external traceability).
● Relevant to each level of product and shipping containers, including pallets, cases and consumer items.
● Provides as minimum criteria and guide for fresh produce growers, packers, exporters/importers, distributors, as well as their customers and suppliers.
To conclude, traceability brings the power of cutting-edge technology to provide consumers with better products and help manufacture and regulate the entire supply chain. Consumers want to be aware more than just the selling price and ingredients; they want to know what they are buying and consuming and the real ‘best before date’. People want to be sure about the companies and want to trust them when it comes to product safety and purity. Some other significant traceability benefits are as follows:
● Improvement in product quality
● Reduced product recalls
● Advanced inventory management and tracking
● Enhanced food safety
● Improved customer service
● Response to consumer demand and much more
The events of 2020 have shown food retailers, producers and consumers how vital our food infrastructure is and how crucial it is tracking the food supply chain from farm to retail – keeping products on supermarket shelves, considering how food production impacts the environment and the grower’s livelihood. Traceability using IoT, AI in food is here to prevail.
Read the casestudy of how SourceTrace’s solutions, deployed by Fruitmaster Agro Fresh Pvt.Ltd.
SourceTrace's software solutions have been deployed across 32 countries and 4 continents already. We are on a mission to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable. Get in touch and we will extend our expertise and commitment to you.
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'Traceability in 2020: Global Scenario with a focus on India'